Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zen & I Ching


     Basically, the 2 great contemporary currents of Mahayana Buddhism were deeply influenced either by the Chinese or the Tibetan civilizations.

The I Ching is a good example of a very peculiar Chinese way of thought that influenced Buddhism when it came from India to China.

I wanted the other day to illustrate this fact to our Meditation group. It took us a little while to come up with the following question :

"As a group practicing meditation, are we having any impact ? (on ourselves as well as on our environment)"

Then we threw the coins. 

The result of our drawing was : 9, 8, 7, 9, 7, 6

Which translate in Binary to a primary hexagram 101110
Hexagram 49 : Change

and when we replace the 9 and 6 by their opposites to a secondary (Note I) hexagram : 001011


Hexagram 53 : Gradual Progress

The reading for the hexagrams are - according to Thomas Cleary translation of the Buddhist I Ching :


Hexagram 49 : Change :
Change is believed in on the day it is completed. It is very successful, beneficial if correct. Regret vanishes.

When the village is changed but not the well, this refers to the place. When the well is used up, there are animals there and it is muddy; it has to be changed.

The first priority of learners is to change their character. This is like fire refining gold : during the process of refinement, the gold finds it painful; only after the refinement is done and the gold is made into a vessel does it believe in the merit of fire.

This path of change is the path to creativity and receptivity; it is very successful for those who do it correctly. Before believing in it, there is regret; once it proves trustworthy, regret vanishes.


Hexagram 53 :  Gradual Progress

Gradual progress in a woman's marriage is auspicious. It is beneficial to be chaste. 

In Buddhist rems, essence is realized all of a sudden, then you use this realization to clear your mind and make it fluid. 

Phenomena are not cleared away all at once. this is done through a gradual process, just as the procedure for a woman's marriage is a gradual one.

Also the gradual method of meditation is called "woman"; arriving at reality right in meditation on phenomena is called "marriage". Comprehensive cultivation of meditation on phenomena with complete understanding is called "Chastity":


My point was ONLY to give an example of the Chinese way of Thinking, a way that deeply influenced Buddhism (We will later analyze the references to the I Ching in Master Hakuin's Yasenkanna, or the five ranks of Tung Shan)

However, just sticking the primary hexagram and not trying to interpret the part about the village and the well, the I Ching mentions 2 things : 

  • That the first change to occur is internal - there is no point trying to change the environment without first changing oneself.
  • That this is not an easy process, but hat it is worth it...


Note I : For lack of time I did not mention during our dharma talk. that when one draws a 6 (extreme Yin) or a 9 (extreme Yang)one has to consider a second hexagram obtained by changing the line for its opposite. 

This is due to the fact that when things are very Yin they turn to Yang, and vice versa. as celarly represented by the Tai Chi Symbol


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